Kartones Blog

Be the change you wanna see in this world

Course Review: English Fluency Master (Udemy)

Speaking and pronunciation is probably the area I'm worst at regarding English, so after doing a course about British English pronunciation, I recently grabbed and just finished another: English Fluency Master.

3 hours of tips and tricks to improve fluency: word blending and "jumping", proper pronunciation of sounds, intonation, tone, stress, and some tongue twisters. But what I liked most about the course is the teacher, Luke. The way he explains everything, repeating multiple times at different speeds, with jokes and funny voices, remarking what we should avoid, etc., is a perfect combination of informal but helpful teaching.

Equal parts enjoyable and useful, definitely recommended.


Book Review: Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

Review

Digital Minimalism

Title: Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

Author: Cal Newport

I got this book because I've been since quite some time cautious about my digital footprint, both regarding social networks and privacy in general. But as I am an advocate of focused work (versus multitasking and the like), I wanted to see if it could help me make a better use of my time, focus better and get less distracted.

And what a discovery! I would say the digital minimalism concept clicked in my mind, but it seems I was already partially applying it, so as you can imagine my feedback is very positive. From opening your eyes about the darker side of social networks, social mobile apps, advertising and many technological companies, to multiple practice exercises for the reader to try and see by himself/herself how much time one can waste in this noisy "social interactions" instead of on higher quality in-person ones, it probably won't leave anyone at the very minimum asking some questions.

It doesn't directly tries to force you to stop doing things, but instead to take some time to think about how you use them. With historical examples, interviews, online articles and scientific papers, plus of course the author's opinion and reasoning, there are many examples of why we tend to lose time on typically dumb things and then wonder why we don't have time to do "other things".

I totally recommend reading the book, as I see almost on a daily basis examples of people afflicted with digital distractions, and I also think it is becoming more worrying also for the newer generations who, as the book points out, have never been in a world without always-on connection.

Notes

  • Calculate costs of things not regarding money, but in amount of life it's going to take you (now or afterwards). Some tasks might yield small economic benefits but require way more of your time and thus, not be worth it.

  • Minimalistic usage of apps and services is equivalent to going shopping with a shopping list: you reduce distractions and chances to be lured into buying more.

  • I am skipping doing the digital de-clutter 30-day but it is very interesting as an exercise. I think I already control very much all of my "digitally dangerous" activities (mostly just RSS reading).

  • Solitude is critical for human beings.

  • The FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early) looks curious but not suited for everyone.

  • In general, it is not about avoiding technology, but about using it consciously instead of letting it use us and steal our time.


Thanks to the book, I now have removed Instagram from the tablet (will install it when I paint some miniature and need to upload a photo), and my RSS feeds reader from the phone, as it is true I got used to opening it when going to the bathroom and other "boring moments" that I can instead let my mind rest.

But apart from that, to be sincere I already was a kind of half digital minimalist... I try to work and study using pomodoros deleted my Facebook account years ago, I use Twitter in an very unorthodox way [1] and automatically delete old content, and even at work I employ drastic life hacks to mitigate when I get distracted.

[1]: By not following anyone in Twitter directly but through lists, I was able to greatly reduce noise and it gave me the power to filter what topics to read. Although eventually I ended up directly not using lists, and now just use it to reply if somebody mentions me or otherwise just announce blog posts or very rarely dumping some thoughts.


Book Review: Whatever you think, think the opposite

Review

Whatever you think, think the opposite

Title: Whatever you think, think the opposite

Author: Paul Arden

Continuation of It's Not How Good You Are. It's How Good You Want To Be, this book is precisely more of the same: More ideas and tips to be different, to take risks, to start doing more what you like and what you think you should be doing and less what others (or society, or anybody) tells you to do. Some sentences are still very radical as in the first book, but this time at least have some explanation, like "don't go to university unless the subject of your learning is close to your heart."

The section about bad (and good) ideas is great, and it has some fun anecdotes. Again a short read (~130 pages), I felt this one is a more generic book about letting yourself go and become free to do what you really want to do, not only about unleashing creativity.

Notes

Just a few highlights I liked and wanted to keep:

Getting what you want means making the decisions you need to make to get what you want. Not the decisions those around you think you should make.

Everything we do we choose. [...] You are the person you chose to be.

The effort of coming to terms with things you do not understand makes them all the more valuable to you when you do grasp them.

Ideas have to be applied before they are recognized as good ideas. Even a bad idea executed is better than a good idea undone.

Solving the problem is the exciting part, not knowing the answer.

Simply change your life: The world is what you think of it. So think of it differently and your life will change.

Meetings are for those with not enough to do.


Book Review: It's Not How Good You Are. It's How Good You Want To Be

Review

It's Not How Good You Are. It's How Good You Want To Be

Title: It's Not How Good You Are. It's How Good You Want To Be

Author: Paul Arden

Quick read (~120 pages) of provocative advices, mostly oriented to business people. Some of them are good, radical, different, challenging... but some to me feel either stupid or wrongly exposed: Getting fired because you have radical ideas might not be bad, but exalting you've been fired 5 times? Or the wrong wording "not getting good grades at school is ok" (instead of saying something like "school grades are not everything")? Some of the messages give the impression of being a survivorship bias: "this is what took me to success so you don't need anything else" and forget that it takes some time to be in a position where your school grades, or your "raw CV" doesn't matter as much as your past successes and mistakes.

That said, not a bad read, especially the creativity part is great and the general tone of "you can do it" is good as self-help and can open your mind.

Notes

I had this book forgotten and decided to read it before gifting it out. I don't even remember why I bought it, but definitely I didn't read it was more oriented to raw business than a generic creativity book.

I also found I have the second part ("Whatever you think, think the opposite") so another review will follow very soon.


Course Review: The Complete Splunk Beginner Course (Udemy)

I sometimes have to use Splunk at work and the truth is that, excepting some basic queries I had no clue how it works, so after a colleague mentioned he was going to go through Udemy's The Complete Splunk Beginner Course I also decided to give it a try.

The results are not bad: It covers all fundamentals and basic pillars like setting it up, querying and visualizing data, so you get to know how it gathers the data, why maybe some field is not being displayed correctly, and other informational bits that can come handy. My main focus was on searching, reporting and visualizing and, while some examples are gone through so quickly I had to watch them twice or pause the video to properly read the search query or terms used, it covers much of the options, from pipelining queries into commands, generating tables or charts, and specific examples of dealing with time series (one of the most common use cases).

The examples are not bad, although I'd have preferred to see a sample of ingesting and parsing an Nginx log than Windows security audit logs, which yes, include some relevant fields but also huge by default useless XML chunks, but on the other side the author provides a "homework dataset" of useful CSV sample data to ingest and play with.

It is a complete course, a bit short (3 hours), but clearly stated with the "beginner" word on the title and covering quite some ground, so a good intro to learn this monitoring tool.


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